Featured interview: Beacon of Hope Uganda

When he was 18, Isaac Ssamba was encouraged to pursue his engineering goals but it was a bigger dream that he chased: helping others. One day, when working in a stone quarry, Ssamba met and worked with a young boy who struggled to support himself. Ssamba never forgot that experience; he carried it with him to an NGO where he worked with many people suffering from HIV/aids. Ssamba knew this what he was meant to do. “God had fully equipped me with the knowledge and talent to bring hope and self worth to them,” he relates. “Now, looking back, I realize God had been preparing me through events in my life for an important mission.” And so he founded Beacon of Hope Uganda to change the world—for them.

1. What is Beacon of Hope Uganda? How did you come up with the name?

Beacon of Hope Uganda (BoHU) is a small youth-led non-profit organization established in Uganda in 2006 by me (Isaac Ssamba) with a vision of helping those least able to help themselves.

BoHU is a movement dedicated to supporting quality education in targeted under-resourced communities, with programs in Uganda. We address some of the most pervasive problems in rural Uganda, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, epilepsy, hunger, education, poverty, access to clean drinking water and orphaned children. The focus of our programs is on providing resources for quality education in under-resourced communities. In order to uplift the youngest of their society, however, it is often necessary to first assist adults and the communities in which they live.

BoHU is founded on the principles that our common humanity is more important than our individual differences.  We are committed to helping individuals fulfill their potential and play meaningful roles in shaping their world.

2. Tell us about a recent project/initiative/accomplishment.

The BoHU Beads of Hope project is a project that has supported many poor people in rural communities of Uganda, especially single mothers and the helpless who are HIV positive. Beacon of Hope Uganda trains the above mentioned groups of people in seven villages.

These women roll beads out of papers and make necklaces of different designs. Through this project women have been able to have at least two meals a day; it has also supported the increase on their household incomes by starting up other supportive projects.

BoHU tries and finds markets both local and international and anyone who wishes to give a hand in finding markets for the paper beads is highly welcome. Give a hand and enable these vulnerable people to afford two meals a day, and increase their household incomes to support their families.

Other projects include the BoHU Education Fund, BoHU Mobile Clinic Program, BoHU Water Projects, BoHU Soccer Tournament and adult literacy programs.

3. We’ve also read about two different programs—the opportunity to sponsor a child and counselling for those who have AIDS. Can you tell us a bit more about these programs?

The BoHU Education Fund is the former “BoHU Orphans Support Program.” It targets 130 totally orphaned children placed in foster homes with local guardians; they attend several public schools in Uganda. BoHU’s orphans caring project cares for 130 children from the ages of 2 to 17. They are all orphans and 60 of them are HIV positive. These kids need everyone’s support for a better future. In the past this program has supported 430 children in both primary and secondary schools through scholarships in partner schools and direct financial support.

4. Our blog is not only committed to educating students about issues around the world but also about encouraging students to find a passion and get involved. We think youth are a very passionate group. How can youth in Uganda get involved, and how can students here in Canada help Beacon of Hope?

Above you can see programs where students can get involved. Actually, we are looking for partner organizations so we can work together in volunteer exchange programs where we can place volunteers into our programs and encourage culture and skills exchange programs. Please, if we could work together in linking up students to genuine projects—we welcome the working relationship.

5. Any other comments, experiences or words of wisdom you would like to share with our viewers?

Please, I would like to invite people of all backgrounds who would like to get involved in projects targeting the real grassroots development in Africa to come work with us at Beacon of Hope Uganda. We have programs and projects that are designed to effect change in the lives of the suffering people in Uganda.

Interview by: Fariya Walji

CEO and Founder of Change Tomorrow’s World

Introduction & Edited by: Marisa Baratta

Blog Writer 2010-2011, Change Tomorrow’s World

(All photos on this page have been reproduced with the permission of Beacon of Hope Uganda. All credit to Beacon of Hope Uganda, see their facebook page. A special thank you to Isaac Ssama, Founder and Executive Chairman of Beacon of Hope Uganda, who was kind enough to conduct this interview and supply pictures.)

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